Voters deny a three-year extension of a local option tax funding city operations

St. PAUL — On Nov. 7 a majority of St. Paul voters said no to a three-year extension of a local option tax for city operations.

The requested rate would have renewed a tax of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value beginning with the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Now that the local option tax has been denied, the city will still collect taxes at the permanent tax rate of 61.57 cents per $1,000 of assessed value as of Nov. 15.

The permanent tax rate provides about $22,836 to the city every year and funded things like street lights and extra patrols under a contract with the Marion County Sheriff's Office. The tax also partially funded land use planning, housing development, resource protection, budget and financial management, insurance, general administration and professional services such as legal, engineering, auditing and planning.

"We won't be turning off the street lights, of course," Mayor Kim Wallis said in an email.

What's the next step?

"The last City Council meeting was the 9th, just shortly after the election," Wallis wrote. "The council acknowledged the failure of the levy and we are planning to hold a work session sometime in early December to discuss the next steps. That will be open to the public."

A possible option is the acceptance of the St. Paul Cooperative Telephone Association's proposal to take over water billing from the city, recently presented to the council. The co-op would install new digital meters, read them and handle billing for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,500 a month.

"The city has 168 connections, so that works out to about $14.88 per connection per month," Wallis said. "If the city agreed to this arrangement, we would be able to reduce the amount of city staff and time involved, as city staff does all of that now. And because of the reduced staff costs, we might not have to raise water rates to cover the additional $14."

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